## Introduction to the International Trade and Capital Flows

### More than Meets the Eye in the Congo

How much do you interact with the global financial system? Do you think not much? Think again. Suppose you take out a student loan, or you deposit money into your bank account. You just affected domestic savings and borrowing. Now say you are at the mall and buy two T-shirts “made in China,” and later contribute to a charity that helps refugees. What is the impact? You affected how much money flows into and out of the United States. If you open an IRA savings account and put money in an international mutual fund, you are involved in the flow of money overseas. While your involvement may not seem as influential as that of someone like the president, who can increase or decrease foreign aid and, thereby, have a huge impact on money flows in and out of the country, you do interact with the global financial system on a daily basis.

The balance of payments—a term you will meet soon—seems like a huge topic, but once you learn the specific components of trade and money, it all makes sense. Along the way, you may have to give up some common misunderstandings about trade and answer some questions: If a country is running a trade deficit, is that bad? Is a trade surplus good? For example, look at the Democratic Republic of the Congo (often referred to as “Congo”), a large country in Central Africa. In 2013, it ran a trade surplus of $1 billion, so it must be doing well, right? In contrast, the trade deficit in the United States was$508 billion in 2013. Do these figures suggest that the United States economy is performing worse than the Congolese economy? Not necessarily. The U.S. trade deficit tends to worsen as the economy strengthens. In contrast, high poverty rates in the Congo persist, and these rates are not going down even with the positive trade balance. Clearly, it is more complicated than simply asserting that running a trade deficit is bad for the economy. You will learn more about these issues and others in this chapter.

### Introduction to International Trade and Capital Flows

In this chapter, you will learn about:

Germany, for example, has had substantial trade surpluses in recent decades, in which exports have greatly exceeded imports. According to the Central Intelligence Agency’s The World Factbook, in 2016, Germany ran a trade surplus of $295 billion. In contrast, the U.S. economy in recent decades has experienced large trade deficits, in which imports have considerably exceeded exports. In 2016, for example, U.S. imports exceeded exports by$502 billion.